Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In which we seek to destroy self-reliance

Ask a group of Christians what matters most, what is the most important thing for them to become more like Jesus and you'll probably get similar answers. Things like prayer, reading the Bible, and sharing our faith with others will dominate the list. And those things are monumentally important in our daily walk with Christ. We're called to evangelize, to pray without ceasing, and to regard the Bible as inspired and useful for making us more like Jesus. But there's something else I would add to that list, something that is just as important as anything on that list. And, that is, as the title might suggest, the importance of destroying self-reliance.

Self-reliance is, as you might have imagined, relying on yourself. And in our culture its put forth as a virtue. "Believe in yourself", we are told; "trust in your heart"; "visualize the life you want to have and it will be yours." Now the problem with this is obvious--it leaves out Jesus. And rather than teaching self-reliance, the New Testament emphasizes a complete reliance on Jesus.

One of the most well known illustrations of this is found in 2 Corinthians 12. As Paul describes a struggle he has faced with a messenger from Satan, and his prayers that were offered to God seeking that this be removed, he reveals that God says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." God essentially says that only when confronted with our weaknesses do we run to Him for His power. And its crucial for us to take hold of this in our lives. The only way we learn to trust in the strength of God is by being forced to see that our own strength is insufficient; the only way I learn to rely on God is by the systematic destruction of self-reliance in my life. Paul goes on to say in vs10, "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Paul recognizes what God is telling Him. And he embraces it. He says, "Lord, if the only way to strip away self-reliance is by You demonstrating to me my own insufficiency, then I will glory in those times."

Now that might seem cruel. It might seem heartless that God would expose us to these types of situations. But rather than being cruel, it is actually a demonstration of the great love God has for us. You see, God wants what is best for us. And that doesn't mean He wants what we think is best for us but that He wants what He knows is best for us--and what is best for us is a life given over to bringing Him glory. And the only way this is accomplished is when our lives are devoid of self-reliance, when we boast gladly of our weaknesses, knowing that when we do so the power of Christ will rest upon us.

God loves us enough to put us through that sanctifying surgery, for lack of a better term, that strips away the reliance on self. And that's not an easy process. There is no general anesthesia for that surgery. But it's a worthwhile surgery. And the reason is this; the less I rely on myself, the more I rely on my Savior. That's huge for us because when we rely on ourselves we will do all we are capable of; when you "believe in yourself" you'll do all that 'yourself' is capable of. But when I rely on Jesus, I can do all things through the One who is giving me strength.

Now does this take away the pain of those times of insults, hardships or betrayals by friends? Of course not. But as a follower of Christ I must learn to embrace those things because I know that God is using them to destroy self-reliance.

Father, thank You for loving me, for saving me, and for committing to make me like You. Help me to see things through Your eyes rather than mine. Help me to remember the sufficiency of Your grace. And help me to glory in the fact that through times of hardship I am being made more like You. Amen.

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